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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

The leaders threw down the gauntlet at the Camp Nou tonight, seeing off second place Atletico Madrid 4-1 and drawing nine points clear at the top of the table. Falcao opened the scoring for the visitors within the first half hour to give them a glimmer of hope, but Barça hit back powerfully with two goals before the break from Adriano and Busquets and a brace from Messi after the break finished off any resistance and confirmed Barça’s dominance of the Spanish League.

The win leaves Tito’s men not just nine ahead of Atletico, but also 13 in front of Real Madrid, who were held to a 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu by Espanyol.

Falcao puts Atletico ahead

Atletico made the brighter start, looking solid at the back and finding Falcao up front with ease. The Colombian hit the woodwork and saw a chance go just wide with his first two chances, but made no mistake with the third, beating Valdes with a clever touch to put the visitors ahead, whilst Barça were only able to create any danger through dead ball situations and never really worried Courtois in the Atletico goal in the first half hour.

Barça hit back strongly

The last quarter of an hour was a different story though, as Barça pushed forward, upped the pace and went for the equaliser, creating a host of chances before Adriano scored a lovely goal, very much like the one he got against Valencia, firing in from the edge of the box. The goal brought the fans to their feet and spurred the team to get the second – which Busquets duly did, poking home from a corner to turn the result around and send the leaders in 2-1 up at the break.

Messi rounds things off

Atletico were forced into a change at half time, with the injured Filipe Luis replaced by Cata Diaz and Juanfran switching to right back, but Atletico were a shadow of the team that started the game and hardly managed a shot in the second half. In contrast, Barça went three up with their first attempt after the break, with almost inevitably, Messi making it three.

90 goals and 9 points clear

Tito brought on Thiago, Villa and Alves late on, with the game decided and the Camp Nou roared on their team as Messi grabbed his 90th goal of the year, pouncing on a mistake in defence from Godin. Cheered off by the fans, Barça are now nine points clear and their world number one is celebrating his 90th goal of an amazing year.


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